local weather Click for Sun Valley, Idaho Forecast
 front page
 public meetings

 last week

 express jobs
 about us
 advertising info
 classifieds info
 internet info
 sun valley central
 sun valley guide
 real estate guide
 sv catalogs
Produced & Maintained by Idaho Mountain Express, Box 1013, Ketchum, ID 83340-1013 
208.726.8060 Voice
208.726.2329 Fax

Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

For the week of Dec 31, 2003 - Jan 6, 2004


Kitty Marcroft takes
an ultra adventure

2003 "Athlete of the Year"
runs and wins first 50-miler

Express Staff Writer

Kitty Marcroft, Hailey-based landscape artist and runner, is a humble person. She would shy away from any broad strokes that would paint her as the best of anything.

Kitty Marcroft takes a break from work at Bird & Co. picture framing in Ketchum. Express photo by Willy Cook

But here, on the final day of 2003, we’ll take the liberty of calling Kitty Marcroft the Idaho Mountain Express "Athlete of the Year." That’s for two reasons. She ran 50 miles in July. And she doesn’t make a big deal about it.

Here are two more reasons. She plans to run 50 miles again, and she hopes to attempt 100 miles next year. "I just needed a different kind of challenge, and I fell in love with ultra marathons," said Marcroft.

Marcroft, in her first try at the ultramarathon distance (any running event longer than 26 miles, 385 yards), went out and won the Tahoe Rim Trail 50-mile run overlooking Lake Tahoe July 19.

She finished the incredibly scenic high elevation course—called in its course description "a glimpse of heaven, a taste of hell!"—in nine hours, 50 minutes and 44 seconds, an average of a mile each 12 minutes.

Marcroft was ninth overall of 70 finishers. She was the first woman, 27 minutes ahead of course record holder Deborah Askew of Colfax, Ca. She was the first Masters class woman in a field where the average age was 41, her age at the time.

She accomplished what she did despite temperatures in the high 80s.

Marcroft’s time, only 22 minutes off the women’s record, was all the more remarkable because most people don’t even finish an ultra their first time because it’s such a drastic step. You have to learn how.

For her considerable effort, she won a pair of Montrail running shoes. At first, they were completely unusable because of the painful blisters on her feet after the arduous day.

More important to Kitty than where she placed in the competition, however, was the fact that she won the respect of an amazing group of people—her fellow ultramarathoners.

"I told everyone it was my first race," said Marcroft, who endured 50-mile anxiety during the pre-race drive with her husband Rob to Lake Tahoe. "They were so nice, though. The mindset is different. The people are different. You meet fabulous people."

Some runners are very competitive and result-oriented. Other runners like Kitty enjoy the training and don’t really give a hoot where they finish.

She’s like a nice, easy 20-minute drive from Hailey to Ketchum—you let the speed freaks fly past through East Fork, then settle into the flow with folks of your own kind.

An Oregon native, Marcroft has been running distances since her freshman year in high school.

She continued running at a community college. "It was the only thing athletically I was ever good at," she said. "You have to be a little obsessive-compulsive, and I guess I am."

Her first marathon was at Astoria, Ore. during her freshman year at the University of Oregon, in 1982.

Road marathons were never a big thing for Marcroft, although she won the 26.2-mile City of Trees Marathon in Boise Nov. 2 in three hours and 16 minutes—just four months after her Tahoe trail ordeal.

She said, "Road marathons, 26 miles of pounding the pavement, never did anything for me." Running the Boston Marathon, for instance, is the last thing she’d ever want to do.

Marcroft graduated with a fine arts degree from Oregon in 1985. She immediately moved to Ketchum, met her future husband Rob Marcroft and started working for Mark Henry at Bellevue Kennels.

Kitty moved to Arizona for a year then came back to Ketchum and did secretarial work at Moritz Community Hospital. She and Rob married in 1987.

She ran, but didn’t compete in local races for many years. Eventually she met some local running enthusiasts and became part of a training group. Kitty’s friend Cindy Mann introduced her to trail running.

"Cindy was the one who got me going on the trails," she said.

Marcroft dabbled in the Backcountry Run, finishing third among women on the 16.5-mile course in 1999, and second in the 10-miler in 2002. She traveled for out-of-state events. But her victories were never measured in finishing times. "My thing is, I want to go to a race and have fun," she said.

Keep in mind that Marcroft’s training has always been scheduled in the off hours of a full 40-hour work week.

An artist, she works and sells her abstract landscapes out of her studio. For 10 years she worked with Kelly Bird as a picture framer at Saddletree Custom Framing. She resumed work with Bird at Bird & Co. in Ketchum this past June.

Her training for the Tahoe Rim Trail never exceeded 50 to 60 miles a week—not much speed work, just a lot of long runs on trails in Greenhorn Gulch and through Deer Creek.

Weekends, she would run for a couple of hours at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. On weekdays, she’d go out for a two-hour run, after work, in the heat of the afternoon, since she knew it was going to be hot in July at Tahoe.

"I think that helped me in the race," she said.

Why the ultra, now?

"For a long time, all I’d been running was a half marathon or less," she said. "I just needed a change. I was bored with the same old thing. The idea of 100 miles just blew me away. Tahoe was 50. I chose it because it was a tough course with hard climbs.

"I just wanted to finish in around 10 hours."

In theory, a runner who can finish a marathon can switch to a 50-miler fairly easily. The pre-race training is similar, but on race day you slow down. Walking hills is a strategy.

Tahoe’s start and finish at Spooner Lake State Park was at 7,000 feet. The highest point was at 9,000 feet. Aid stations were provided along the way.

Kitty was doing all right for the first half of the ultra. She ate quite a few peanut and butter sandwiches during the run. Her frequent drinks were half Gatorade and water.

It was hot. Quite a few 50-mile entrants opted for the 50-kilometer course because of the high temperatures.

"There were people to talk to and the scenery was spectacular," she said. Up at the snow line, you could look down at the waters of Lake Tahoe. It had a cooling effect.

Halfway through, her resolve weakened. She said, "I definitely had my ups-and-downs. I thought I’d had it at the 25-mile turnaround. I stopped and ate something and said to myself, I’m just going to go and see what happens."

What happened was a runner named Ed Heller from Albuquerque caught up with Marcroft a half-mile down the trail. He was a Godsend.

"I said to Ed, I’m so tired. He kept talking and talking and basically needled me and bugged me and helped me get through the second half of the run," recalled a grateful Marcroft.

Heller, 41, finished eighth in 9:50.22, 22 seconds ahead of Kitty. For the last 15 miles, she endured bad blisters on her feet.

"You had to walk up a hill to the finish area," she said. "Rob helped me up the hill. He also took a photo of the bottom of my feet. I’m never going to show that photo to anyone."

It took a while to recover.

She said, "I was in a lot of pain—stiff and sore. I took several days completely off. After three to five days I did some walking, then I alternated walking and running."

Time dulls the pain in the mind of an ultramarathoner like Marcroft, 42.

She’s ready for more. Although ultramarathons typically attract more men than women, it’s something that suits her—despite her 5-8 build, rather tall for a female distance runner.

In 2004, Marcroft plans four big races: A 50-kilometer race in March in Arizona; an off-road marathon in June; the repeat of her 50-mile Tahoe Rim Run in July; and, gulp, the Leadville 100-miler in August.

The 100-miler is mind-boggling, but she’ll stay in the flow and take it as it comes.

She said, "I can visualize doing this for a long time. You see people like Charley French (national senior triathlon champion) around Ketchum. And when I do, I say to myself, I want that to be me in 40 more years."




Ultra notes

Here, from cyberspace, are some of ultramarathoning’s profound quotes and comments and other sayings that try to define the big question—why?

"If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry—you’ll get over it." Gene Thibeault

"It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit." George Sheehan

"Run hard, run long!" Jay Hodde

"All the disruptive arguments among my friends as to whether or not I was sane when I took up marathon running have been entirely resolved since I ran my first 50-miler." John Kendall

"The 10k is a race. The marathon is an experience. The ultra is an adventure." Bryan Hacker

"In an ultra you should eat like a horse, drink like a fish, and run like a turtle." Unknown

"The race isn’t always to the swiftest, but to those who keep on running." Unknown

"I still think the Western States trail is one of the most beautiful places that I have vomited." Mary Gorski

"26 miles, 385 yards is where racing ends and ludicrous extremes begin." From "Runner’s World"

"It used to freak me out when I threw up, now I don’t even slow down." Unknown

"….you discover that the person you thought you were is no match for the one you really are." Unknown

"At some point it doesn’t get any worse." Unknown

"Start slow, then taper off." Walt Stack

"Perhaps the genius of ultrarunning is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers……But the ultrarunners know something that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being—a call that asks who they are." David Blaikie, Ultramarathon World




Express Athletes of the Year

This is the 27th year the Express has named an "Athlete of the Year." Selected have been 15 women and 13 men.

2003—Kitty Marcroft, ultra marathon runner

2002—Adrienne Leugers, nine-time Baldy Hill Climb women’s winner

2001—Kelly Wardell, the world’s best bareback bronc rider

2000—Sondra Van Ert, 10-time national snowboard champion and 2000 Grand Prix alpine winner

1999—Steve Born, RAAM cross-country bicycle racer

1998—Muffy Davis, slalom bronze medalist at the 1998 Paralympics

1997—Bob Sarchett, Masters alpine skier and softball player

1996—Greg Taylor, seven-time Ironman Triathlon finisher

1995—Aleene Gibson, cross-country bicyclist

1994—Picabo Street, 1994 Olympic women's downhill silver medalist

1993—Muffy Ritz, RAAM cross-country bicycle racer

1992—Gabriele Andersen, world-class runner and cross-country skier.

1991—Dave Fauth, baseball and softball player.

1990—Ruthie Matthes, world-class bicycle racer.

1989—Charley French, masters' champion triathlete.

1988—E.J. Holcomb, Great American Ski Chase queen.

1987—Katrin Tobin, world-class bicycle racer, and brother Michael Tobin, Pike's Peak climber.

1986—Jerry Engelbert, world champion powerlifter.

1985—Jane (Magoo) McGloin, Ketchum's sunny sports enthusiast.

1984—Loren Adkins, nationally-ranked bicyclist, skier and hill climber in the 75-79 age class.

1983—Monte Brothwell, Idaho's top marathon runner.

1982—Lisa Bernhagen, state champion prep track and field performer.

1981—Tom Schnebeck, Bald Mountain Rugby Football Club player.

1980—Carol Levine, alpine ski racer and softball player.

1979—Phil Hoene, Sun Valley Suns hockey centerman.

1978—Dr. Lynn "Buck" Levy, pacesetting marathon runner.

1977—Christin Cooper, promising U.S. Ski Team alpine racer.



City of Ketchum

Formula Sports


Edmark GM Superstore : Nampa, Idaho

Premier Resorts Sun Valley

High Country Property Rentals

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.